Press Release
October 4, 2011

After DFA hearing

The budget of DFA for 2012 is P10.988 billion. We found it reasonable. In fact we found it inadequate to respond to the needs of our OFWs. Sa aming tingin kulang ang budget ng DFA para pangalagaan ang milyun-milyong manggagawa sa ibayong dagat. Ganun pa man, dahilan po sa hindi naman malaki ang ating pondo, aking hiniling sa DFA na i-rationalzie an gating mga embassies and consulates sa buond mundo. We are in 94 posts consisting of 67 embassies, 23 consulates and 4 missions to international organizations. We asked them to rationalize and justify our presence in 94 posts and Sec Del Rosario agreed that indeed there is a need to rationalize and he has agreed to close 12 embassies between and in 2013, but we asked him to accelerate this so that the 12 foreign posts can be closed by the end of 2012. This means of savings of anywhere from P100-150 million next year. We will not reduce the budget as a result of this closure but we have asked the secretary to deploy the manpower and resources to areas where assistance to our overseas Filipino workers would be needed. Hindi po namin ibabalik sa Treasury ang mahigit sa P100 million budget na magiging savings natin pag isinara natin ang 12 embahada at konsulada ngunit ang sinasabi namin dapat itong pera ay ilagay sa mga embahada kung saan maraming OFWs. We believe that we can better husband our resources. Singapore, a rich country, I understand is present in 23 countries. We are present in 67 countries and 23 consulates. We have even a consulate in Vladivostok, I do not know what we are doing in Vladivostok, Russia. We spend about P2.4 million in Vladivostok. Apart from these 12, I have asked Sec Del Rosario to continue the rationalization of our embassies. We want to make it clear na ang intensyon ng komite ay hindi retrenchment ng ating mga kawani sa DFA. Ang aming intensyon ay palakasin at lagyan ng pondo ang ating mga embahada kung saan marami tayong mga manggagawang Pilipino.

I repeat, as it may cause insecurity to the DFA staff, we do not intend to ask DFA to undertake a retrenchment program. What we are asking them to do is to realign these funds to countries where we need them because of our overseas Filipinos.

The second area that we touched upon is the very poor implementation of our Dual Citizens Act. Sa ngayon ay mahigit lamang sa 87,000 ng ating mga kababayan ang nagiging dual citizens. This is disappointing. I put the issue squarely to the DFA because they are the ones with presence abroad. Ang aking nakikita ay kulang sa information drive. Malaking bagay sana ito sa ating mga kababayan sa labas na nagiging dayuhan na makabalik sa atin through their citizenship. As a principal author of the Dual Citizenship Act, I am disappointed at the lack of attention given to this important law. We have asked the secretary to come up with a communication plan and targets to improve their programs insofar as implementing this law. We should be able to improve this significantly if efforts are undertaken to encourage our compatriots abroad to avail of this benefit. The second aspect of this problem is the administrative difficulties that former Filipino citizens would meet, especially in the Philippines when they avail of this law. There was a letter to the editor which I read wherein the Filipino wife was so flabbergasted when the DFA required her to produce a birth certificate independent of her Filipino passport. So she was saying, 'how can you require me a birth certificate when I have a Filipino passport that expired when I lost my Filipino citizenship?' This is a no brainer. Sa ating regulasyon, hindi naman kailangang dalawang dokumento. Kung meron kang passport at ikaw ay Pinoy, dapat sapat na para ito ang maging ebidensya na ikaw ay dating Pilipino. I have asked the secretary to look into these 2 areas in order that we have a better implementation of the Dual Citizenship Act.

Similarly, the Absentee Voting Act has been dismal insofar as the record is concerned. In the DFA alone, I understand that in 2010, they spent P24 million, apart from what the Comelec spent, and yet only about 150,000 of Filipinos overseas voted. This is just one congressional district. At these levels, we could not achieve the purpose of the law which is to influence the election of leaders in our country through OFWs which are numerous, millions in number. I have asked also the secretary of Foreign Affairs to look at how this law is being implemented with the end in view of increasing substantially the Filipinos who vote overseas in time for the next election.

Q: Gaano karami ang overseas voters?

I do not have the exact figures but if you look at, for example, Saudi Arabia, doon pa lang may 1 million na ang ating mga manggagawa. These are all voters. While I do not know the magnitudes, certainly if you pick out Saudi Arabia, there is indeed reason to believe that this law is not being implemented properly.

Q: Meron kayong wishlist sa 12 na isasarang embassies?

We have no wishlist. Ang DFA ang siyang magdedesisyon kung aling mga embahada ang isasara dahil maraming political implications ito, may mga bilateral issues. At the end of the day, our national interest should be the prime consideration. No foreign policy is altruistic in character. Foreign policies should always be for the benefit of the nation promulgating the foreign policy. In this particular case, it is to our national interest that we rationalize our presence abroad because of our situation, economically, and the need for consular services to OFWs.

Q: Yung 12 situated sa countries na kakaunti ang Pinoy?

I do not know. The presence or absence of Filipinos in a particular post is not the only factor in determining whether or not a particular presence should be closed.

Q: Paano yung maaapektuhang personnel?

Ide-deploy sila sa mga embahada kung saan kulang ang ating staff dahilan sa kakulangan ng ating salapi. Hindi sila mawawalan ng trabaho.

Q: The criteria will be drawn up by the DFA?


Q: Ano ang naging basis ng 12?

I do not know. Sec Del Rosario, in his assessment, said 'these are the top 12 which we can close without affecting our bilateral relationship with the country where they are posted and that we can utilize the funds for these posts to augment the funds of posts where we have a good number of Filipino nationals.'

Q: Only embassies will be affected?

We are talking basically about embassies and consulates. I do nothave information, but not the missions. We only have 4 missions. They are looking at consulates and embassies. For example, I would like to think Vladivostok, they can be rationalized. That's a consulate.

Q: inaudible

Kung wala naman tayong trade na nakikita sa bansang yon for the last 5 years... if trade is almost zero, how can we rationalize? Walang Pilipino, walang negosyo na nakikita, walang political value. To me, you look at the mandate of the DFA, you look at assistance to Filipino nationals, you look at economy in terms of trade, and you look at the political value of our presence there. For example, ASEAN, whether or not we have Filipinos in the ASEAN countries, whether or not we have trade with ASEAN countries, because we have the ASEAN Treaty, we belong to the association, so we have to be present there. These are the factors, to me, that the DFA will consider in maintain our presence abroad.

Q: Did you give them a working deadline when to implement?

They articulated that within the next 6 months, the first 6 embassies would be closed. I asked them to finish this before the end of 2012, although they are asking that this be done in 2013. I see no reason for extending it beyond 2012.

Q: This will affect embassies and consulates or embassies only?

I do not have that detail but I would think both embassies and consulates.

Q: How about MECO?

MECO is not even the DFA. It's under OP. That's not part of their review. There may be enough reasons to maintain MECO. I think we have about 90,000 Filipinos there.

Q: Kinu-question ni Cong Lagman ang in-introduce nyong mode para i-amend ang Constitution

I don't want to debate about that in the media. I will debate with him in the proper forum when this comes before Congress. Maybe I'll just ask him, 'which part of the Constitution says we must vote jointly and which part of the Constitution says that we must meet in a joint session?' There's none. Let me tell you some historical background. This provision on amendment was discussed in the constitutional commission when the legislature was proposed to be unicameral. The proposed legislature under the 1987 Constitution, initially, was unicameral. That is why this was the provision that came out. In the debate, a question was asked: 'Suppose the convention will finally vote for a bicameral Congress, what happens to this provision?' The sponsor said, 'We will have to amend it and follow the 1935 Constitution' which says 'Constitution may be amended by Congress, in joint session assembled, voting separately.' That was the background. When the unicameral system lost by 1 vote, they were not able to amend this particular provision. Not only this provision, the provision, for example, on JBC. Nakalimutan ding ayusin, sa membership nakalagay 1 representative from Congress. The contemplation was that there was only one house of Congress. Nung naging dalawa, nagkabuhol-buhol. The senator and the congressman used to split the vote. Now they are given one vote each so that while the Constitution says 7 members ang JBC, nagiging 8 na. This is the background of this particular provision. We believe that there is legal basis for us to argue that a bicameral constituent assembly is feasible under the present Constitution.

Q: Pwede bang umakyat hanggang SC ang kinu-question?

Of course. Finally the SC will have to be the arbiter. We're not saying that we're infallible. But we are not also afraid to debate on an issue which has not been touched before.

Q: Matagal ang proseso kung umabot sa SC?

Well, hindi naman kailangang pagmadaliin mo ito eh. Pag uusapan pa yung substance.

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